Advertisement

Fort Bragg, a California city named for a Confederate general, considers changing its name

The Mendocino County city of Fort Bragg is scheduled to discuss its name on June 22.
(Sarah Bodnar)

The City Council of Fort Bragg, a small Northern California city named after Braxton Bragg, a Confederate Army general and slave owner, is pondering putting a town name change on the November ballot.

The move by the Mendocino County town of nearly 7,400 comes in response “to many requests (some local and many not) that the city of Fort Bragg, California change its name to avoid any connotation associated with Confederate Army General Braxton Bragg,” a post on the city’s Facebook page read, as first reported by the Fort Bragg Advocate-News. The discussion is set for June 22.

The post, which has received more than 900 contentious comments decrying and praising the call for conversation, comes amid a national reckoning with racism following protests against police violence. Since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, protesters and policymakers have torn down Confederate statues, and namesakes and icons associated with racism and white supremacy have faced intense scrutiny.

The town’s name has been challenged before. In 2015, the California Legislative Black Caucus sent a letter to then-Mayor Lindy Peters asking Fort Bragg to make a change. According to the letter, Bragg’s mother was jailed for killing a freed, formerly enslaved person, and the Confederate general enslaved 105 people at his Louisiana plantation before he “committed treason against our nation during the Civil War and fought to defend the defenseless cause of slavery.”

Advertisement

The request came in July 2015, a month after white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine black worshipers at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C.

“While I completely agree with the effort to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state Capitol, I would argue that asking us to change our name is taking things a bit too far,” Peters, who now serves as a City Council member, told The Times then. “You cannot change history.... We are a tight-knit community who do not favor changing our name, especially when pushed to do so by politicos who have never even visited our town and know nothing of our long and rich local history.”

The city — once just a military camp — was named for Bragg in 1857, before the Civil War, by founder Horatio C. Gibson, who served under Bragg in the Mexican-American War, according to website Mendocino Fun.

Other namesakes of Bragg are also being called into question.

Advertisement

Military leaders, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, have signaled they are willing to consider renaming Army bases that honor Confederate officers, such as North Carolina’s Ft. Bragg.

On June 10, President Trump tweeted that his administration would not consider renaming the bases because they “have become part of a Great American heritage, a history of winning, victory and freedom.” That same day, the Senate’s Armed Services Committee voted to require the Pentagon to remove Confederate names, monuments and symbols from the military in the next three years.

Bragg led the Confederate Army of the Tennessee. A recent biography of the general, who resigned his post under pressure halfway through the war after decisive losses and is regarded as an unsuccessful military leader, is subtitled “The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy.” After leading Confederate troops against American Union troops, Bragg served as a close advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.


Advertisement